I’m bisexual and originally thought children might be something I would do in the context of a heterosexual long term relationship.
When I was single in my late 20s/early 30s, I heard Juliet Stevenson on ‘Desert Island Discs’ (!) saying that if she got to an age where it was too late for her to have children and she hadn’t got round to trying, she would feel she had ‘mismanaged’ things – or something along those lines. That got me thinking.
I was doing a MA in Women’s Studies and chose to do my dissertation about women having children by donor or self-insemination. I spoke with a gay friend about him being my donor over a long period of time. Ultimately he opted out and an ex-partner but long-term friend agreed to help me and to be a co-parent. He was living abroad at the time and we had a ‘trial’ run at insemination on a visit back to the UK that coincided with my cycle. And I got pregnant first go!
Having a child via self-insemination for me was very easy and straightforward. She was wanted, planned and conceived with love and that feels very special. I made sure her dad got parental responsibility via a court order (necessary in 1997) and she has his surname (my choice).
I am now a single parent with a 15 year old daughter. I co-parented with her dad, living in a shared household, for six years and have subsequently lived alone with my daughter.
Her dad was very hands on and totally involved in shared parenting while living with us. It then got less and less when he moved out and got married. His wife never accepted our long-term friendship and never really saw my daughter as part of their family. So my daughter doesn’t have a great relationship with her dad although she loves him greatly but she and I are very close and have a delightful mum/daughter relationship.
My daughter likes the story of how she was conceived outside of a relationship and by insemination. She feels it is special too (in a positive way!). She tells her closest friends, who think it is ‘cool.’
I have no regrets about having a child outside of a relationship though I wish about how future partners might feel about our arrangement (both of us were single at the time I got pregnant) and he used to say that if a future partner of his could not accept the arrangement then that would not be the person for him. Turns out he has married someone who doesn’t accept our friendship and our daughter into her life! So sadly, he is totally out of my life now and minimally involved in our daughter’s life.
For several years after he first got married the situation got worse and worse as I battled to maintain his input in my daughter’s life. Communication totally broke down and his wife sent me nasty emails, being incredibly negative about me and about my daughter. Eventually I had to end all contact and give up on anything changing or improving.
My daughter still struggles with missing her dad sometimes and wishing she could see more of him but overall is resigned to loving him but finding him hopeless.
Despite the struggles around those relationships, my daughter and I are incredibly close and I am so glad I had her when I did (I was 33) – it’s one of my top achievements.
Parenting alone as I have for the past 11 years does come with financial implications but we have enough money to live in a nice area. Her dad continues to pay maintenance, although that hasn’t increased in 11 years.
I’m an academic and so there have been consequences in terms of work and not being able to attend conferences etc without a great deal of forward planning and negotiation, so some limitations there. Possibly my career has progressed more slowly – but it has been my choice really to prioritise life at home and be there for my daughter (perhaps more so given the absence of her dad).
I don’t have family support but I do have a good network of friends and I have never had to pay for childcare since nursery in the early years.
Having a child has probably impacted on relationships. Given the situation with my daughter’s dad and how much her relationship with him changed when he got married, I have been her main source of stability and security and I have probably prioritised that over relationships. But overall that’s OK. My family never really understood my choices and chose to ignore them!
Doing things differently, especially as a single parent, does require resourcefulness and resilience – so the more support you have around you the better. You cannot anticipate every scenario but discuss in advance as much as you can. Go for it!